Sunday, August 23, 2009

Hell's Hell

(First appeared in Doubletake Magazine, Issue 8, Spring 1997, pg. 56; and is also in The Soup of Something Missing.)

Hell's Hell

A waitress clears away the midday plates.
The skinny cook sweats and scrapes grease off the grill,
stopping only for a drink of cold water.
The bottom corner of the restaurant’s window is broken.
The owner’s been meaning to replace the cardboard patch
with new glass since it broke last year.
The three remaining customers ask for more beer.
They’re talking about robbing the beauty supply store, or the bank

next to it, or the bridal salon, pharmacy or bakery.
Together they have enough money
to buy a gun and some bullets.
This isn’t the first afternoon they made such plans.
Back in December they had the same
conversation as they wiped their bowls
of potato soup with chunks of bread.
But today, again, nothing happens.

Wind pushes against the cardboard patch.
It swings as if on a hinge.
A passing woman leans against the window,
curves a hand at the side of her face to block the sun
and looks inside. She sees the waitress, three customers,
but not the cook who went out back to relieve himself.
The waitress briefly stares at the woman's black silhouette.
Only a moment in hell's hell could be like this.

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